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Environmental assessment of milk production from local to regional scales

TitleEnvironmental assessment of milk production from local to regional scales
Publication TypeArticolo su Rivista peer-reviewed
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsOliveira, M., Zucaro Amalia, Santagata R., and Ulgiati S.
JournalEcological Modelling
KeywordsAgriculture, Campania, Chemical fertilizers, Commerce, Emergy accountings, energy efficiency, environmental assessment, Feedback, Fertilizers, Fossil fuels, Fuel economy, Global warming, livestock farming, Manures, Milk production, Process energy efficiency, Production system, Resource efficiencies, Reuse, Sustainable development

The environmental impact of livestock activities as Earth global warming is already well known. Therefore, the reuse of resources and products is addressed to reduce the damage caused by intensive livestock farming within a fossil fuel-based economy. Most studies related to sustainability correctly evaluate the processes' energy efficiency under human control but disregard the resources provided for free by nature. For these reasons, the Emergy Accounting (EMA) method is applied to evaluate the direct and indirect environmental support to milk production at regional (Campania Region, Italy) and local levels (buffalo farm within Campania Region), also comparing these results to available outcomes from scientific literature at different spatial scales. Therefore, this study aims to: (i) evaluate the resources consumption across scales from an environmental, donor–side perspective, (ii) suggest improvement options based on feedback use of resources, and (iii) test a calculation method to avoid double counting in complex systems. At the local level, a buffalo farm within Campania Region was evaluated from crop cultivation for feed purposes up to milk production according to three different scenarios for fodder production: (i) manure produced by livestock as fertilizer (closed-loop – circular model), (ii) manure purchased from the market with an integrative amount of chemical fertilizers (open loop), and (iii) chemical fertilizers only (linear model). EMA results applied to the regional level provide a Unit Emergy Value (with Labor & Service) of about 3.09E+07 sej g − 1, heavily affected by the emergy of feed production. The buffalo farm within Campania Region (local evaluation) proves to be the most efficient milk production system in terms of resource use; in contrast, the buffalo farm in Brazil is the most self-sufficient milk production system, compared to similar studies from Poland, Slovenia, and Northern Italy. The evaluation of the manure use scenarios (feedback within the system boundaries and purchase from the market) shows the importance of an appropriate assessment approach to overcome the methodological limitations of circularity evaluations. In conclusion, the transition to a sustainable future can be achieved by implementing circular patterns, which should be adequately evaluated to support the correct approach for public policies. © 2021


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Citation KeyOliveira2022